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New forum for Ireland’s Arabs to discuss concerns

Last update - Thursday, April 8, 2010, 13:11 By Catherine Reilly

STEREOTYPING OF Arabs has negatively affected their potential contribution to Irish society, an Arab community activist in Dublin has warned.

Algerian-born Abdelrazak Zeroug of the Arab Communities Forum said Arabs are “the most affected community after 9/11 in the west, even in Ireland”, resulting in a ‘heads-down’ approach from a largely law-abiding population.
However, Zeroug added that a number of other factors are affecting the emergence of an Arab voice in Ireland, including the community’s very diversity.
“All Arabs are not Muslim, for example there are Egyptian Copts, Lebanese Christians,” he outlined. “Also, Arab Muslims have different dialects, customs, culture, food and costumes – they are not in one package, and this is why they are not more exposed.”
He said some Islamic religious leaders discourage community groupings by nationality, hindering the development of such representative organisations, while many Arabs come from countries with “no democracy, no freedom of expression”, leading to a lack of experience in civil society engagement such as volunteerism and community development.
Zeroug said the Arab Communities Forum plans to establish a monthly session which will bring together Arabs, and other interested parties, to discuss shared concerns.
“We are not against religious leaders,” he underlined, “but believe in creating a healthy environment so that Arab communities can really express themselves freely and engage in civil society, so they can talk about being in Ireland, their future, their problems, to find solutions, and to have a voice in the communities.”
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